Among other takeaways from the Coronavirus pandemic, one reality that Nigeria and other developing countries had to admit is the need to reform the way the health sector is being run particularly the pharmaceutical supply chain.
For instance in Nigeria, the restriction on movements meant that the drugstore owner in Lagos could not move around to make his bulk pharmaceutical purchases from the wholesaler at Idumota. It was in the aftermath of the lockdown that business ideas like Remedial Health were born to digitise the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Samuel Okwuada, CEO and Co-founder of Remedial health was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour and he spoke in detail about how the firm is using its B2B model to ease the purchasing processes for pharmacies, drugstores and healthcare providers.
“We are basically digitising the pharmaceutical supply chain, taking pharmacies inventory online, providing them software solutions to improve their operations in pharmacy, and handling procurement for the pharmacies and hospitals,” Okwuada explained.
Drawing a comparison between the experience in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom, Okwuada said; “I studied in the UK and I worked for a bit before returning to Nigeria. Over there, ordering medicines for the pharmacy was as easy as making a dispense on the system, and immediately I can reorder it. So, typically, before I come in the morning, the products that I ordered the day before would be waiting outside the pharmacy. But that wasn’t the case in Nigeria”.
Okwuada got his first and second degree in Pharmacy, and worked briefly in the United Kingdom before returning to Nigeria. Before applying for the National Youth Service Corps or doing a conversion course in Nigeria, he decided to intern for free, in order to get exposed to the system in Nigeria and see how things operated differently. It was during this internship that he met the young man who would later become his co-founder.
What does Remedial Health solve?
The digitised supply chain that Remedial Health is promoting solves multiple problems. The first is the time problem. Instead of having to leave the business for a whole day to go make purchases from the wholesaler, one can simply make the purchase online via Remedial health and have it delivered in record time.
“Typically, drug store owners in Nigeria would have to be away from their business for long hours, going through traffic and the stress to go purchase their supplies. This is 2022 and there is no need for that. So why not place your order and let the products come to you?,” Okwuada said.
Another is the pricing value. Since Remedial Health deals directly with the manufacturers and appointed distributors, the economics of scale comes to play and healthcare providers can get a better pricing regime when they make their purchases through Remedial Health. This beats the price dealers will get from the open market after the product has gone through several middlemen.
Importantly, the problem of fake, adulterated and counterfeit drugs is one that has plagued the medical sector for long decades. The bigger challenge is that when the counterfeit drugs are placed beside the originals, one may still not be able to tell which is real unless a lab test is conducted. It eventually comes down to the source of the product in question.
When purchases are made from the open-market, there is the possibility that both genuine and counterfeit products may be sold together. Remedial health deals directly with the manufacturers, and so completely cuts out the possibility of any adulterated or counterfeit product.
In just about a year, Remedial Health has gone from self-funded, friendly investors and now to VC funded. The focus at the moment is to onboard more healthcare providers on the system, showing that things can be done with ease and online.
On the hopes for a medical sector without counterfeit drugs, Okwuada says “truth is Africans are very enterprising and it can be bad or good. Until we get to a point where drug prescription is under firm control, we cannot control the way antibiotics are prescribed. Nigeria needs to get to the point where the drug store refuses to sell you an antibiotic drug unless it has been prescribed or recommended by a medical professional”.
There are also hopes that Nigeria gets to the point where majority of its pharmaceutical supplies are made locally, from the scratch, rather than the current situation where the bulk of it is imported in its complete form, or the raw materials are imported and assembled locally. This can significantly reduce the cost of healthcare.
Remedial Health is considering a future possibility of having people access a healthcare professional at the drugstore closest to them. So, when they walk into the drugstore, they would be able to speak to a professional virtually or physically, get tested where necessary and get proper recommendations and advice.